As storm Dennis rips through our home town, and the sad news of the untimely passing of presenter Caroline Flack floods social media, hundreds of thousands of posts appear in a public outpouring of emotion, and the apparent concern for everyone’s mental well-
being suddenly intensifies. How long this concern will continue remains to be seen!
When you observe these posts, it appears as though some people are completely unaware of their own impact.
One post on social media said;
‘I’m utterly devastated!
Although I never knew Caroline, she was a beautiful person who made only one mistake!’
While I am quite sure the person posting this comment, did so with the best of intentions, I think it’s safe to assume that Caroline, like the rest of us probably made more than one mistake during her lifetime.
However, If the one mistake the postee was referring to, is in relation to the charges and upcoming court case, Caroline had pleaded not-guilty to the charges leveled against her. Since we live in a country where the law states ‘Innocent until proven guilty, no mistake has yet been made. It is important that we as a society remain mindful of the facts, rather than making knee-jerk conclusions or assumptions based on biased media coverage.
It is essential we remember that the facts are friendly, and the Truth matters, because not everything in life is always as it appears to be.
Without even realising it, the well-meaning postee had unwittingly decided on Caroline’s guilt, inadvertently becoming judge and jury. Just one example from the thousands of comments being posted every hour.
If you were in a room with a person that inadvertently judged you in this way, you could address it. You could confront them directly about how their comments made you feel, pointing out the errors in their wording, ensuring any misunderstanding was put right, giving you the opportunity to have your voice heard and providing you with a sense of justice.
But where do you go when things go wrong in this age of social media?
Sure, you can unplug for a while, but what happens when you are in the midst of it, and criticism is coming at you from every direction – where do you hide?
What damage can possibly arise from one badly worded post you may say?
Well, the truth is; there isn’t only one! There are hundreds of thousands of comments, some well-meaning, some well-meaning but badly worded, some critical and some just blatantly abusive, as the keyboard warrior’s in our society, with all the bravery of being out of range, jump on-board, finding enjoyment in tearing people down and watching them fall apart.
To be bombarded with so many negative opinions about your character and your life in this way is soul destroying, and the consequences of one more well-intended but badly worded post is potentially devastating.
We all make mistakes in life, that’s how we learn. In my experience, very few of us intentionally choose badly for ourselves, we make mistakes and we learn the lessons – but none of us enjoy the process of it.
When we do get things wrong, many of us tend to do a pretty good job of beating ourselves up without any need for outside help. When we are feeling at our weakest and most vulnerable, we need positive reinforcement, not the knowledge that other people are jumping on the bandwagon, pointing a finger or throwing their rocks of judgement at us.
Not one of us is without flaws, and most of us are responsible for using words and/or behaviours without paying due care or attention of the impact we have on another/others. When someone takes their own life, it really needs to act as a wake-up call for each and every one of us. A reminder to pay attention to how we treat others.
It’s not enough to put a banner on your social media page instructing others to ‘Be Kind’ - we all need to take it on-board and recognise our own part in this culture. Everyone using social media needs to be mindful of their own impact.
Unrelated, but another example of how people jump on the bandwagon without thinking, is a comment I read earlier on social media by a guy, clearly very upset after losing a parent. He had joined a conversation complaining about a lack of patient care. Given the circumstances, he was potentially already feeling the negative emotions of anger and grief, as he posted about the treatment his father had received in the hospital;
‘My Dad should have been seen immediately, instead he was left in a ward with other people who were eating their meals when my Dads bowl exploded’!
A number of sarcastic egos, jumped on-board.
Although it was obvious from the context of his post, the guy had made a very simple spelling error, some people felt it necessary to exploit it and poke fun.
While it’s easy to make fun out of someone else's misery from a distance, without having to confront the consequences or the impact of our actions, the reality is this guy had just lost a parent in terrible circumstances. A complete lack of compassion, common sense and empathy being shown by individuals who had decided that the most important part of his sentence was the misspelling of bowel and without further consideration of the impact, they used the misspelling for their own entertainment.
These are not one-off, isolated incidents that happen infrequently, this is the life we are all now living. This is how we are treating each other on a regular, often daily basis. If someone disagrees with another person’s view point, and is brave enough to say so, mob rule ensues and the platform quickly becomes a free for all with everyone throwing their two pence into the ring.
‘How do you cause an argument on Social Media? – Say something, anything at all - and wait!'
It is not only individuals who post less than factual, badly worded, judgemental or thoughtless posts on social media, that causes the damage to others.
Its not only the media who appear to enjoy the control of lifting people up only to tear them down again, leaving their lives in tatters, that causes the damage to others.
It is the professionals, who with or without conscious awareness, use language and behaviours to obtain results that benefit themselves, impacting negatively and damaging the health and well-being of others.
If we are really concerned about the mental well-being
of others, if we are genuinely committed to saving lives, we must each play our part.
We must turn our attention inwards, recognising and understanding our own impact first!
'Don't ever underestimate the importance of treating others with respect & kindness' (Alison Levine)